Bringing Europe a click closer

What have a Finnish doctor of media technology, a Belgian captain-commander (fire chief) and a lowly communication person from the UK got in common? The answer is that we all spoke at a masterclass on disasters and social media that took place in Brussels this week.

Since leaving university I have kept as far away as possible from anything overtly academic which made this two-day event quite a challenge for me. The masterclass was part of a project exploring how EU governments currently use and can potentially use Web 2.0 applications and Semantic Technologies in disaster response. More details can be found at

What united us across the various countries was a passion for using social media and maximising the opportunities that it presents. Whether that is in supporting frontline first responders, part of wider community engagement and involvement, or in developing the use of data to predict events before they happen we all wanted to make a difference using new technology.

I have written a number of times in this blog about the value of using social media, how it needs to integrate with other communication, the impact using social media can have in a time of crisis and how organisations need to get on board with it now. Achieving this is something I know affects professionals in the UK. But now I know that the same issues are being wrestled with across Europe and probably throughout the world.

There were a number of issues that were raised by the representatives from across Europe:

  • how do you gain senior management buy-in to using social media?
  • how can you involve staff in using social media?
  • how do you integrate social media with wider communication?
  • how can you gain maximum operational benefits from using social media?
  • how can you validate the effectiveness of your use of social media and identify further opportunities?

These appear to be issues affecting us all and there is no manual that will ensure success in using social media for all organisations. All you can do is look at other examples of what people have done, what has worked and see what works for your own circumstances. There were a number of things that people agreed were required to support the use of social media:

  • have a clear strategy of what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it so that you know what you are doing and why
  • use examples of how organisations have benefited from using social media to gain support
  • integrate social media with all communications and with operational activity as both can benefit
  • involve staff in taking social media forward as they will make it happen. Have a few people who will drive things
  • social media blurs the personal and professional so use the chance to equip staff with the knowledge to protect themselves
  • prepare now for emergencies and know that you can use social media now as well as when the crisis hits. Make plans and start conversations
  • be prepared once you have started using social media that you have to keep going and maintain the conversation to protect your organisation’s reputation – there is no going back

It was enlightening to hear the wide range of experiences from across Europe. It reinforced my commitment and enthusiasm to pursue all the opportunities open so that I can make the most of the avenues that have been opened up by technology.

I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to meet an interesting and diverse group of people. It was amazing to have the chance to speak about the work my team have been doing and to represent Greater Manchester Police, the police service and the UK.  I hope my short venture into the EU will be useful to the project and may help in developing long-term solutions to the challenges of using social media that affect us all.


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